by Tony Villiotti
February 27, 02014
Skill position players took the field on Sunday as the Combine continued. This article reviews the performance of the skill players. As mentioned in my earlier article, the data used as the basis for this article comes from nfl.com. The NFL does not, however, report the splits within the 40-yard dash. This is very meaningful information that I usually obtain from other sources. Because of the importance of the 10-yard splits to running backs and wide receivers, though, I did use the 10-yard information from www.walterfootball.com. Complete 40-yard splits will be reported in a wrap-up article later in March.
This article reports each player’s measurement by percentile. That is, if a player’s measurement is in the top 10% of all performances since 1999 his measurement would be reported as 10% (raw scores are reported at any number of websites and would be redundant to report here). A low score is better than a high score (e.g., 10% is better than 20%). IF “DNP” is reported in a column, it means the player did not participate in that drill.
As compared to recent years, the super-athlete was missing from this year’s quarterback crop, resulting in a drop-off in most measurements.
In the individual player listings, the up or down arrow reflects the drills judged to be most and least predictive of future performance in my article “2014 COMBINE VIEWING GUIDE”. An up arrow indicates most predictive and a down area indicates least predictive. Past QB results have shown very little correlation between NFL performance and any of the drills, so none of the drills are highlighted.
Johnny Football and Logan Thomas rated the highest in the Combine drills. Thomas was particularly interesting given his size (6-6 248) but his inconsistency in game situations is well known to those who follow college football.
Running Backs (over 210 pounds)
For evaluation purposes, running backs were split into those who weigh 210 pounds or less and those who weigh more than 210 pounds. This is less arbitrary than one might think as 210 pounds is about the historic size midpoint for running backs.
The 2014 group of large running backs appears to be somewhat less athletic than those of the past. Here is a comparison of current and past performance.
I will not repeat the comments regarding individual performance that were made in the previous section. Here is the individual information.
Andre Williams, George Atkinson and Tyler Gaffney were arguably the best performers but no one blew away the competition. As noted above, none of the large running backs had times in the 10-yard or 40-yard splits that are in the top 10% historically.
Running Backs (210 pounds or less)
As a group, the smaller running backs were slightly slower than historical averages in the 10-yard split but a little better in the other drills. Unfortunately, the 10-yard split is, in my humble opinion, the most important predictor of success at this position. Here is the comparison of current and past years.
Three players (Dri Archer, Tre Mason and Jerick McKinnon) stuck out as the top performers. Archer is very small (5-8 173) and figures to be more of a situational player. McKinnon was not very well known heading into the Combine and his draft position might tell us how much weight the Combine carries in player evaluation. Based on Combine performance it is hard to imagine anyone from this group being a particularly high draft selection.
Here is the listing by player.
There were a lot of good individual performances in the wide receiver group. For example, of the 48 WRs, 10 had 10-yard split times that were among the best 10% historically. That is double what would normally be expected. 2014 performance versus the historic average, as shown in the following table, was slightly better across the board.
Individual information is shown below. Judged strictly by performance in the measurable drills, Jeff Janis was a standout. Janis has great size (6-3 219) and recorded the fastest 10-yard and 40-yard times. Donte Moncrief is another large receiver (6-2 221) who posted excellent Combine scores. Brandon Cooks of Oregon State and John Brown of Pittsburgh State were the only two receivers who posted top 10% times in both the 10-yard and 40 yard splits. Cooks is a projected first rounder while Brown is a dark horse. Other first rounders including Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans did well enough in the Combine to maintain their positions.
This year’s group of wide receivers appears to have great depth and great values will be able to be obtained later in the draft.
Follow Tony on Twitter @draftmetrics